Pageant celebrated county history

February 24, 2012|Linda Irvin-Craig
  • Edward Tenney
Submitted photo

The centennial celebration for the Washington County Historical Society continues, because the founding dates ranged from the organizational meetings of August and September 1911 to the actual recording of the incorporation papers with the state of Maryland in January of 1912. The earliest projects of the society began in the spring of 1912.

Continuing with the history and accomplishments of the organization, the following is an account of one of Washington County's and Hagerstown's largest exposition:

In 1936, Harvey S. Bomberger, first president of the Washington County Historical Society, became incapacitated by health issues, so the organization was led briefly by Park W.T. Loy who was then chairman of the Executive Directors Committee.  

Through a nominating process, Edward M. Tenney was selected as president to succeed Bomberger, whose death the following year inspired a resolution from the society honoring his many years of service and great accomplishments.

Loy and Tenney had worked with Bomberger for a number of years in helping to maintain what became a force in the Washington County community and whose directors were the heads of leading businesses and institutions of education, the courts and government. 

Tenney headed the Historical Society during the formation of a special community effort to recognize the multiple historic anniversaries of the settling of Washington County, 200 years; the founding of Hagerstown, 175 years; and the Battle of Antietam, 75 years.

Called "On Wings of Time," the pageant spanned a two-week period, Sept. 4 to 17, 1937, which involved nearly every aspect of community life.

Tenney came to Washington County in 1891 from his birthplace in New Hampshire. After arriving in Washington County, Tenney owned and operated a general store in Edgemont prior to his moving to Hagerstown, where he later served as postmaster.

 Active with business, civic and sportsmen's organizations, he served as a director for the Planters Mutual Insurance Co. for 31 years and played an active role in politics on both local and state Republican Central Committees.

Following two terms in the Maryland Legislature, Tenney was a sitting Water Board commissioner for the City of Hagerstown at the time of his death in 1942.

The extent of community planning, which began in 1935, shows in the staging of "An Historical Community Rally," which is produced by the society more than a year before the main event, to introduce the concepts of a grand exposition and pageant. 

On April 21, 1936, the Historical Society procured guest speaker, William Fontaine Alexander, who was a fourth generation removed nephew of George Washington, as keynote for the rally at Hagerstown High School. The rally followed performances by an a capella chorus and the YMCA Boys Band in the square as a prelude to a Conococheague Chapter of the Daughters of American Revolution dinner at the Hotel Alexander.

Loy became general chairman of the mammoth undertaking of the celebration and a member of the United States Antietam Celebration Commission. 

In 1930, he had been tapped by the federal government  to help organize the Washington County Welfare Federation, which was designed to provide relief for those made jobless by the Great Depression. He was awarded The Herald-Mail 1930 Outstanding Citizen Medal for those efforts.

After graduating from Thurmont High School in 1902, Loy went to work for the Western Maryland Railway in the bridge and buildings maintenance department. From 1911 to 1920, he was wire chief for the Frederick district of C&P Telephone Co. He then started a long employment with Potomac Edison, first as a claims agent and then as their personnel director, retiring from that position in 1949. 

In 1950 Loy accepted a call from the City of Hagerstown, where he had established his residence in 1923, to head the personnel department there, staying on until 1953.  In his spare time he served with the Chamber of Commerce and the Hagerstown Kiwanis Club, in addition to the Historical Society, and he successfully campaigned to have an aircraft carrier named Antietam in 1943.

Hours of operation for the anniversary event held at the fairgrounds were from 10 a.m. to midnight daily, except for Sunday, when the exposition did not open until noon. A projected budget of $65,000 was prepared. This event supplanted the regular agricultural fair of 1937, but incorporated all of its elements, including expanded agricultural displays and the annual carnival midway.

A pre-pageant ball was held at the Alexander Hotel on Monday, Aug. 30, and a preview of the exhibits was opened on Sept. 3. Tours of Antietam Battlefield and Sharpsburg were offered daily, departing at 10 a.m. The Chamber of Commerce and a number of local civic and service clubs became sponsors and provided manpower.

Committees set early in 1936 included local, state and interstate advisory groups and were headed by Dr. Irving M. Wertz, mayor of Hagerstown; Alexander Armstrong, former Maryland attorney general; and Harry W. Nice, governor of Maryland. They anticipated participation from the National Park Service and prominent interested persons from other counties and states.  A joint resolution of the 74th U.S. Congress created the National Antietam Celebration Commission and passage by the state legislature of enabling acts allowed the city and county to invest up to $10,000 each through appropriation and levy, to enjoin with a state appropriation of $15,000, in the preparation and staging of the events.

The special committees chaired from the local area covered: research, E. Russell Hicks; grounds and buildings, Harold F. Bester; legal, Joseph D. Mish; military participation, Col. John Carmichael; pageantry and dramatic effect, George W. Updegraff Jr.; agricultural participation, Roy Weagly; commercial participation, George M. Bohman; industrial participation, G.W. Tyler; railway participation, W.D. Peddicord; aviation participation, Lewis E. Reisner; concessions, Charles W. Wolf; hospitality, Roy A. Leiter; traffic, Clarence G. Emmert; publicity, J. Garvin Hager; music, Peter Buys; fine arts exhibits, Carl Medford; practical arts exhibits, E. Aldine Lakin;  historic objects exhibits, J.B. Ferguson; wild life exhibits, G.E. Habercom; prizes and awards, Charles W. Hoffman; church participation, the Rev. Walter B. McKinley; school participation, Byron J. Grimes; Boy and Girl Scout participation, Alfred S. Bendell; decorations and illuminations, Robert A. Stott; and sports and contest, George Victor Cushwa.  Budget matters were left to the Historical Society for oversight until J. V. Jamison was brought on board to handle the finances. He was later replaced by Hugh H. Schindel.

Because of the length of the planning period some of the committee chairs changed during the process.  Stepping into various roles along the way were William Preston Lane, Jr., W. Wray Lemon, Henry Holzapfel, Jr., E. Walter Baker, James R. Black, A. H. Warne, Leo H. Miller, J. Cleveland Grice, William C. Diehl, Capt. C. H. McCleary, Hugh Troxell, Frank. S. Leiter, H. E. McFadden, Frank Bentz, Mark Mellor, Maj. Joseph W. Byron, John J. Roulette, Joseph W. Hiscox, Charles Lyon, William T. Hamilton, Andrew K. Coffman, Dr. Victor D. Miller, Samuel E. Phillips, Charles W. Harman and J. Forney Young, who became an important cog in the administrative management.

Two pages of directives were drafted for committee processes, which included how to arrive at a compromise should a perception of overlapping duties arise. An account of the event will be featured next month.

Linda Irvin-Craig is executive director of the Washington County Historical Society, which is housed at The Miller House, 135 W. Washington St., downtown Hagerstown. For more information about the society, go to

Mad Hatters' Ball

The Washington County Historical Society will hold its second Mad Hatters' Ball Saturday, April 14, at Fountain Head County Club in Hagerstown. This also marks the centennial date of the R.M.S. Titanic's collision with the iceberg on April 14, 1912, to give relevance to the period of time when the organization began.

Invitations for this event will soon be mailed. Inquiries for tickets should be directed to 301-797-8782 or Creative headwear is again encouraged for the evening, the WCHS signature fundraiser.

Edward M. Tenney

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